June 05, 2020

CSRWire.com The Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire

news by category

CSRwire Talkback

| join the conversation

Public-Private Education Partnerships Thrive On Shared Values & Collaboration

Submitted by: Michelle Naggar

Posted: Sep 30, 2015 – 06:00 AM EST

Series: Education for a Sustainable Future

Tags: education, public-private partnership, community, csr


This is the most recent article in our series "Education for a Sustainable Future". For more articles, go to http://www.csrwire.com/blog/series/86-education-for-a-sustainable-future/posts

At Starwood, a global hospitality company with more than 1,200 hotels in 100 countries, 10 brands and 180,000 employees around the world, social responsibility is part of who we are and how we do business.

My role is to maximize the benefit that my company brings to the communities where we operate, while minimizing any harm from our operations. One way we have done this is through our focus on skills development. Starwood has a long history of taking talented, entry-level associates and cultivating them into larger roles within the company. During the last few years, Starwood’s Social Responsibility team has had the privilege of bringing this idea of skills cultivation from inside the company, out into our communities.

We’ve done this through our Workplace Readiness program, where we provide underserved or underemployed individuals with the skills training and opportunities they need to get and keep good jobs. We know that skills training is vital for our business and for the communities where we operate. We also know that we can’t do it alone.

When we moved our corporate headquarters to Stamford, Conn., four years ago, we entered a community in transition, with high unemployment rates and a significant education gap, and yet there was enormous growth and development occurring all around us. It was through the course of engaging with our new community that we started discussions with Sacred Heart University (SHU) about addressing our mutual needs.

Starwood had significant hiring needs in our growing digital marketing and IT departments, and was unable to find enough local candidates with the right skill set.  SHU was launching its Masters in Digital Marketing program and opening a new graduate center in downtown Stamford. They needed to attract students to their program and employers for their graduates.  The partnership could have stopped there – a university graduating students with the skills needed for hire by local companies – but both entities recognized the challenges for youth in Stamford, and saw the opportunity for something bigger.

We wanted to take our strengths and match them with the needs of our local community, and out of that collaboration, Project Opportunity was born. We knew we needed assistance with identifying high school students to participate, and our relationship with the Mayor’s Youth Employment Program (MYEP), created by the Stamford Mayor’s office and run by the Youth Services Bureau, was crucial to our success. The MYEP provided access to a formal application and selection process to identify youth participants and management of their progression throughout the internship.  

In the summer of 2013, Starwood employed 20 high school interns through the MYEP, and held a ‘digital marketing boot camp’ with SHU professors teaching classes on the subject and Starwood employees providing mentorship, project support and shadowing engagements. At the end of that first summer, our student teams each presented the digital marketing campaign they had created to our senior leadership team, including our CEO.  Our senior leadership team was extremely impressed, not only by the poise and professionalism of these teenagers who were presenting to the senior executives of a Fortune 500 company, but also with how much they had learned about digital marketing and hospitality in five short weeks.

Running the summer internship program was a great step in providing local students with exposure to a real-world corporate environment, but to truly drive change we needed to reach more students.  After that first summer, we met with the Stamford Public Schools (SPS) and created a task force that included Starwood, SHU, MYEP, and SPS teachers. The task force set to work on developing a curriculum that combined existing marketing and technology classes in a pathway that would support the pursuit of higher education and/or careers in digital marketing and IT.  Ultimately, we created an E-Marketing course that incorporates current technologies and business cases into the curriculum. 

We launched the course this September in all 3 public schools in Stamford.  SHU is pursuing college credit for the course.

We continue to learn as this program grows. The most important lesson has been the value of creating a mutually beneficial public-private partnership.  Without the commitment and dedication of all involved parties, representing business, higher education, local government and local schools, this program would never have achieved success.  Project Opportunity has helped more than 50 students to-date and has received external recognition.  We look forward to growing that number not only in Stamford, but hopefully in other locations by transferring this model.

Collaborative work like this is critical to the economic and social stability of communities around the world.  Cultivating more qualified local candidates to meet employment needs creates value for our business and it creates a strong, well-educated workforce to support a thriving community. And while most things in business are competitive in nature, our program only gets stronger with additional support and collaboration. We invite other companies to join us as more diversity of employers and employment opportunities makes the program stronger for businesses and for the community. 

This is the most recent article in our series "Education for a Sustainable Future". For more articles, go to http://www.csrwire.com/blog/series/86-education-for-a-sustainable-future/posts

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

Search The Blog



Issuers of news releases and not csrwire are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content